Pentecost is celebrated on Sunday.
The disciples and followers of Jesus returned to Jerusalem to the upper room where they were staying. They were waiting for Jesus’ promise to be fulfilled when he said to them, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Jesus told them to return to the upper room in Jerusalem and pray for the coming of the Spirit.
They were more than 120 to devote themselves to prayer for the coming of the Spirit, as well as some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus. This is the last time Mary appears in the New Testament. The text tells us that they were all united in their commitment to prayer.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound from the sky like the howl of a violent wind filled the whole house where they were sitting. Which appears to them as individual flames of fire landing on each of them.
They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit permitted them. They quickly moved from inside the upper room where the disciples had gathered to the street outside where the gospel is already drawing a crowd.
They were overwhelmed by the huge crowd of devout Jews from “every nation under heaven.” Gathering to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Never was there a more international crowd than at the time of Pentecost in Jerusalem. The diverse crowd of different languages and cultures from some fifteen countries was bewildered and amazed as they said, “How is it possible that each of us can hear these Galileans talking about the ‘mighty works of God’ in our own language?”
Sermon of Peter
The Word of God for the People of God.
Who would have ever thought that Peter would have been at Pentecost when, in the midst of a hostile crowd, Peter denied that he was a follower of Christ or that he had ever known him. But the Spirit breathed new life into a once cowardly disciple and created a new man who now has the gift of bold speech. Peter uses this miracle as an opportunity to proclaim the good news. It is the first Christian sermon ever preached. A renewed Peter stands before this immense crowd and raises his voice to address them.
“Men of Judea and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene has been known to you by the miracles, wonders and signs which God has wrought through him among you, and of which you are all aware. But you, with the help of wicked men, had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross. God raised him from the grip of death, since it was impossible for death to hold him. God made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. The crowd, who listened intently to Peter’s words, were deeply moved by Peter’s sermon.
They asked Peter, “What can we do?” Their words make it clear that something must be done about their guilt. Peter replied, “Change your hearts and your lives and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, then you will receive the presence of the Holy Spirit.”
Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. The story of Pentecost began with the gift of the Spirit to the assembled apostles. The day ends with the gift of reconciliation for those who stood on the outside and now, by the grace of God’s forgiveness and baptism, stand on the inside. This account of Pentecostal conversions is perhaps the most significant piece of the larger story of the amazing growth of the Christian community. Remember Jesus’ words to his disciples: “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. Today, this movement to “the ends of the earth” has begun.
Peter’s sermon was the greatest of his life, with incredible results. For God brought about 3,000 people who were baptized and joined the community of faith that day.
Because of the strength and power of Peter’s sermon and the crowd’s response, Pentecost has been recognized as the Church’s birthday celebrated annually 50 days after the Resurrection.
NT Wright points out that there are certain patterns that emerged from the Pentecostal experience in Acts 2. It would be wise for us to find out what those patterns are:
1.The first gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of tongues. This gift caused this large and diverse crowd to cry out, “How is it possible that we can hear them speaking in our native language? The gift of tongues allowed Peter’s powerful proclamation to be understood by all. The Spirit has been released into the earth bringing new hope and power to many.
The setting in which the Spirit has burst onto the scene and the way the Spirit is making his presence known through many languages, reveals that the good news does not belong to just one type of people. No single culture or mode of expression can fully define the gospel. The center of the church is Christ.
2. The Holy Spirit creates a unified and diverse community. To whom was the Holy Spirit given on the day of Pentecost? The Spirit was given to a community, to a community that was waiting for the coming of the Spirit. The community followed the instructions of Jesus, that they prayed for the coming of the Spirit who would bring them power and teach them all things.
What the Spirit created that day was not a creed, or a book, or a theology, but a vibrant and diverse community known in the New Testament as “The Way.” The Spirit promotes unity by preserving diversity, producing a community of growth, excitement and creativity. The apostle Paul makes the clearest statement in the entire New Testament regarding the diversity of the community when he writes:
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different activities, but the same God who produces them all in everyone. (1Cor. 12:4-6).
3. What we discover at Pentecost is a vibrant and diverse community where all activity, teaching, fellowship, sharing, breaking of bread and prayer. All of this has created a well-balanced image of the church. They bore the marks of an authentic incarnation of the Spirit in the life of the community. The apostles manifested a new force which entered their hearts, becoming a driving force in their lives.
These early followers of Christ are an inspiration to congregations today seeking to serve racially and culturally diverse congregations. Prominent church historian Justo Gonzalez points out that “today’s congregations that engage as churches of multi-ethnic identity, hospitality, and preaching the gospel, will always attract action “.
Jack Stroman, Th.D. United Methodist Minster, is retired and lives in Tallahassee.